Zunaid Ahmed Palak, the Awami League candidate for Natore-3, may have broken the election law by offering cash donation to villagers in his constituency.
At a campaign in Radhanagar village of Singra upazila on Monday, Palak, also state minister for ICT, announced a donation of Tk 2 lakh to fill up a local canal and directed the local leaders and activists to work to that end.
A video clip of his speech was posted on his verified Facebook page the same day.
In another footage posted also on the same day, Palak is seen addressing a gathering at Karachmaria playground where a football match was underway. In his speech, he announced a donation of Tk 10 lakh for the construction of a gallery at the playground.
“I am announcing Tk 10 lakh in donation for the gallery,” he said.
Offering such donations before election is illegal as election laws prohibit any action or comment that may influence voters.
Radhanagar village has been without power since independence. However, just months before the election schedule was announced, authorities there hurriedly set up electric poles and completed wiring at households.
Besides, an 8km road was constructed months ago to connect Radhanagar with neighbouring Singra and Nandigram towns. But, to get on the road, villagers have to cross a canal.
On Monday, Palak told the villagers, “I have no authority just 12 days before the election. Still I will try to bring electricity to you and fill up the canal before the polls,” he said.
“If I cannot, will you punish me?” he said.
As the villagers looked unconvinced, Palak said he would donate Tk 2 lakh to fill up the canal.
Despite repeated attempts over the last three days, The Daily Star could not reach Palak by phone for comments.
But Singra AL President Ohidur Rahman, also Palak's chief election agent, said, “The state minister's speeches did not violate the [electoral] laws. In fact, he announced that he would arrange those funds if he is re-elected and our party is voted to power again. So, the question of violation does not arise.”
BNP leaders allege that AL candidates of Rajshahi region are freely campaigning through Facebook and, in some cases, misusing their power or influencing the voters in violation of the electoral rules.
By contrast, most BNP leaders and activists have been asked to refrain from posting photographs and videos of campaigning on Facebook to avoid trouble, said Rajshahi district BNP chief Tofazzal Hossain Topu.
The BNP also decided not to organise any campaign at some upazilas including Mohonpur in Rajshahi-3, Bagha in Rajshahi-6 and Atrai in Naogaon-6 to avoid confrontation, he added.